There are two new high-rise accommodation options on the Gold Coast – both under the Hilton brand. But which is the better choice for a holiday? Quentin Long finds out  There are a few things I don’t understand about the Hilton Surfers Paradise. Don’t get me wrong – I actually really like it and will definitely return next time I’m at the northern end of the Gold Coast. But I’m confused.

For starters, there is the Hilton Surfers Paradise hotel (which opened in September this year) and the Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences (which opened in December last year). When it came time to do this review, I wasn’t sure which one to book – they occupy glittering twin towers in the same complex.

After some investigation I threw caution to the wind and decided to try both. They were similarly priced, so I wanted to compare the holiday unit against the hotel room.

The second thing I don’t get is its orientation. Right in the heart of Surfers Paradise, the hotel backs onto the upmarket Surfers Paradise Boulevard yet fronts downmarket Orchid Ave. Opposite the hotel’s lobby are two strip joints (Crazy Horse and Hollywood Showgirls, since you asked), Shooters nightclub and assorted tired outlets. So entering the Hilton complex is really like entering an oasis from one of the least pleasant parts of the Gold Coast. This should be rectified when the upmarket retail precinct, the High St, is finished and leased. But right now it’s soulless and disconcerting.

But don’t let that put you off, as the Hilton is really a tale of two towers, which are a world unto themselves.

The entire complex was almost lost when the original developer went the way of many similar Gold Coast operations back in 2009 and a new developer had to be found. With construction now almost complete, the Hilton is the first five-star hotel to be built on the GC since 2000.
Having the Hilton label on the project sets high expectations. Which are mostly met, occasionally missed and sometimes exceeded.
The lobby is shared by the residence and hotel (and a deli-cum-café called The Food Store) and reception staff are incredibly efficient – except on the phone. When booking at a reasonable 8.45am Sydney time, the reservation staff had not clocked on yet, so my booking agent (my wife) was diverted to a call centre. When she enquired where in the world the individual she was talking to was located, she was hung up on. So she called Hilton reception and left a message, and when the reservations staff finally clocked on they returned her call.

When we were actually there, staff were incredibly helpful. Moments that exceeded our expectations included checkout, when a porter found the suit I had left in the wardrobe and brought it out with the rest of our luggage, and the time a concierge returned my phone to our room after I’d left it in the bar. Now that’s service.

As for the complex itself, the part that exceeded expectations the most was the pool and gym area on the second floor, which is accessible from both towers and serviced by The Deck poolside bar.

Lunch at The Deck was a highlight, too. I ate one of the best steak sangers I’ve had in a hotel anywhere in Australia, while my wife enjoyed Australia’s best hotel club sandwich – the true standard of resort dining, in my opinion. The Deck’s groovy and relaxing milieu could be the set for a Miami cop drama. The pool area is divided into “outdoor rooms” with sheltered cabanas with white awnings, and lounge areas that feature womb-like couches for two – great for a cuddle. It’s a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the poolside oasis as the madness swarms outside the compound on Orchid Avenue, Cavill Avenue and Surfers Paradise Boulevard.

The only challenge is the surrounding high-rises, which cast shadows that make it necessary to move every couple of hours if you want to spend the day in the sun. If you want to get out of the sun, there’s Fix Bar and Luke Mangan’s Salt Bar and Grill. Fix is a great space for a drink, with huge round windows, a subdued atmosphere and comfy lounges. The wine list is sub-standard (expectation missed) but the cocktail list is extensive. Maybe that’s Surfers Paradise for you. The wine list at Salt Grill makes up for it. The food is excellent here, too – not hard, it must be said, for such an uninspiring menu of simple dishes.

We stayed in an entry-level room, simply named a Guest Room. It was compact, with a small ensuite (sans bathtub – expectation missed) and a queen-size bed.

Lighting throughout the hotel is excellent. In our room, burnt-orange lamps on round black bedside tables seem like small, comforting fires. In the bathroom, the lighting has three levels: functional; subdued night lighting; and don’t-miss-a-pore, burn-my-eyes-out mirror lighting. The room decor is sophisticated but there’s just a single armchair – it’s like a doctor’s surgery that’s lost a chair.

The one thing in the room that did exceed expectations was the pillows. Small detail, I know, but too bulky or not enough bulk and my neck feels like I have been packing a scrum against the All Blacks. I found three amazing, versatile pillows that were easily arranged for slothing around in bed reading, watching TV and sleeping.

The next night we moved to the Residences and our view was much better – we had sea glimpses over the surrounding high-rises. Our modern two-bedroom apartment had white-tiled floors and contemporary furniture – two large lounges for TV viewing and a fully equipped kitchen. My wife walked in and exclaimed, “This is more like it!”

Our room was light-filled and fresh, and had more of a relaxed holiday feel than the businesslike hotel. An ensuite was accessed through the walk-in wardrobe – though I would have preferred a bathtub to a walk-in robe. And the pillows were exactly the same.

So would I recommend the Hilton Surfers Paradise Hotel or the Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences? I lean more towards the Residences. The hotel is a little too much like any other good luxury business hotel. I wouldn’t be upset to find myself in the hotel again, but it’s not exceptional. The Residences are.

What’s the gossip?

“Families and couples and businesspeople coexist seamlessly, not just because of the accommodation options (self-contained apartments such as the one we had on floor 28, to romantic guest rooms), but the facilities.”
– Natasha Hughes, smh.com.au

THE AT VERDICT:
Quentin Long, who paid his own way and visited anonymously, says:
“Both places are great options with excellent service, amenities and finishing – $289 a night for the Residences was excellent value.”
The Details
Where  6 Orchid Ave, Surfers Paradise, Qld.
Notes  Quentin paid $250 for the night at the Hilton Surfers Paradise hotel and $289 for the Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences.
Contact  (07) 5680 8000; hiltonsurfersparadise.com.au
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